What a blast the KL City Opera Chorus had in January’s performance of Mozart’s Magic Flute with the Malaysia Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) at DewanFilharmonik Petronas. With world class talent from distant lands like Russia, Australia and the United States, audiences were just blown away at the show-stopping performances. Up next in April is the 2nd installment of Malaysia’s first Opera themed festival: OperaKUL. Bringing in new and also familiar names to conduct talks, workshops and performances, the festival shall prove its worth once more in promoting opera awareness to the Malaysian scene. To th is effect, the KLCO Chorus is already underway in its rehearsal for the programme, alongside other choirs and performers. A special guest at this year’s OperaKUL is Italian–born conductor Nicoletta Conti who racked up an astounding track record of conducting numerous orchestras and operas around the world. A rare treat! For her presence here marks an affordable opportunity to learn from experts of the operatic and classical scene. Tickets can be booked through our website on http://klcityopera.com/.
Magic Flute: Behind the Curtains
A chorus member shares his experience on what it’s like to perform with the most prestigious orchestra and esteemed international singers.
I still remember the day the news was broken to us. It was during our mid-2016 collaborative performance with the Selangor Philharmonic Orchestra that we were told we were going to be performing the Magic Flute in the prestigious DewanFilharmonik P etronas in KLCC, alongside the esteemed Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. I couldn’t believe it. Was it for real? Are we ready for the seemingly high standards of that venue?
Upon completing our main opera of 2016, La Boheme, we immediately set ourselves t owards rehearsing for the Magic Flute. This would be the first time we sing in German. As our chorus master Mak Chi Hoe works his way through the pieces, it becomes clear that the language itself would prove to be more challenging than the notes, what with the manipulation of the tongue to create sounds that you wouldn’t use in English, or even Italian or French. At the end of each rehearsal, you could swear that your tongues ended up in knots.
Eventually as it draws closer to showtime, we bump into the famed Dewan Filharmonik Petronas. There was a combined feeling of humbling awe and pride, as we have always been entering this hall as audience members. But now, it is our turn on the majestic stage, where many famed international performers had graced previously. And there up on the stage is our director Steve Davis-Lim. A colorful character, filled with enthusiasm and passion. With no time to waste, he brings up us to speed and setting upon us his vision for the staging of the opera. Astonishingly, we also learn that he is not only directing, but also starring as the main character Tamino. Following that, we are introduced to Giullaume Tournaire, our maestro of a conductor. Versed in choral conducting, he was more than ready to maximize our vocal potential and dynamics in addition to further polishing our German.
One by one, we meet our principal performers. There is American Lauren Snouffer, playing the part of the lead female and love interest Pamina. With the discipline and air of a professional, her voice and onstage presence grips the audience under a thrall. Then we meet Australian Daniel Carison, portraying Papageno, the bumbling comic relief and best buddy of Tamino. His personally perfectly matches hisonstage character: goofy, flamboyant, energetic and endearing. This naturally makes him an audience darling as they laugh and cheer at his antics.
Taking the mantle of the regal, yet spiteful Queen of the Night is Anna Siminska from Poland. This role is known to be one of the most challenging soprano roles in the classical scene, for it calls for the performer to not only hit a hideously high F note several times, but to vocally dance up and down on her register. Being a veteran, Anne naturally pulls it off seamlessly, even with the fact that she was pregnant during the duration of the production. Everyone who was watching from backstage had their gobs utterly smacked with awe every time she takes to the stage.
Last but certainly not least comes the deep, rumbling yet warm bass of Dimitri Ivaschenko, as the head priest Sarastro. He may look huge and intimidating, but boy, you were so wrong. He is in fact very jovial, mischievous and always with a smile on his face . Akin to how Anna’s powerful voice stuns the audience, Dimitri’s soothes the audience with his deep tones. Working with these people was a blast, for they were not only professional, but also friendly and encouraging, even agreeing to pose with us for pictures. Needless to say, the chorus members were most delighted, with the silliest grins on their faces.
When the time came to step onto the stage, it was an experience quite like nothing I’ve ever had before. The bright lights hiding the audience, obscuring any reaction they might have had at our every note and movement. But we need not worry, for their thundering applause assures us that they are very entertained.
As the proverbial curtain falls for the last time (since DPF doesn’t have a curtain), we were left with a feeling of pride. To have performed with such a great cast of people and the most prestigious orchestra in Malaysia, it was a great honor. Man, it sure feels good to be in KLCO.